Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I can see my house from here

Since 1805, when Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort came up with a scale of wind speeds that included laymen's descriptions ("Force 6: Strong Breeze. Difficulty with umbrellas"), there has been an agreed scale that's rather more meaningful than "A bit breezy." For any scientists who might have accidentally blundered upon this post, the empirical formula is:
    v = 0.836B1.5

    where v is wind speed in metres per second and B is the Beaufort Scale number.
Similar empirical scales might be applied to other well-known but hitherto unquantified phenomena. Such as:-

The Beaufort Scale of Domestic Cleanliness

    Force 0

    Clinically spotless. Gleaming. The clean room of a biological weapons research laboratory.

    Force 1
    Recently dusted show house. Only ever seen in computer simulations of proposed real estate.

    Force 2
    As featured in 'House Beautiful' magazine, the place is immaculate except for copies of 'Horse and Hound' or 'Country Life' strategically placed in the vain hope of giving it a 'lived in' look.

    Force 3
    This is about as clean and tidy as a real residence can ever achieve. Some dust on inaccessible horizontal surfaces and the occasional fallen leaf from potted plants.

    Force 4
    Dusty surfaces, occasional coffee cups, cans and crockery on tables. Toys and games stuffed under furniture.

    Force 5
    DVDs, books and magazines on many horizontal surfaces. Empty beer cans, crockery and pizza boxes near armchairs. Unused toys scattered around the floor.

    Force 6
    Minimum achievable in undergraduate accommodation.

    Force 7
    Crockery, Chinese takeaway cartons and pizza boxes contain the putrefying remains of long-forgotten food. Spilled drinks have dried into carpets, and uncarpeted floor areas are sticky.

    Force 8
    Difficult to walk around the rooms without impaling oneself on toys, cutlery or motorcycle parts.

    Force 9
    All horizontal surfaces covered with tools, papers, cans and packets. Real floor is invisible, and walls largely obscured by boxes, boards, piles of books, CDs and engine parts.

    Force 10
    Dog, cat and toddler mess remains insitu until it has dried and turned into dust. Moribund consumer electronics serve as storage areas and furniture.

    Force 11
    Pathogens multiply uncontrollably. Anyone entering this place without full biochemical protection risks contracting diseases.

    Force 12
    Dead bodies left putrefying where they expired. New invertebrate species evolve spontaneously from the feet-deep miasma coating all surfaces.

This blog post was inspired in part by this piece of inanity.

Dubai Summer Surprises

July 1st: Traffic Surprises

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You never heard it here

Lightening the tone somewhat, and with my tongue firmly in my cheek, here are a few suggestions of things you're never likely to hear.

On a Club 18-30 holiday:
    "05:30 alarm call please."
    "Not for me, thanks. I neither drink nor smoke."
    "I'm saving myself for marriage."
    "Let's go on the archaeology trip."

In the Deep South:
    "Boy, the tires on your truck are too big."
    "We lost, fair and square."
    "Sure Tyrone. Of course y'all can marry my sister."
    "Just because I could've shot three deer didn't mean I had to."
    "...and a white wine spritzer for my husband."
    "Lentils please. I detest grits and gravy."

In Dubai:
    "There was no traffic on SZR and it was really easy to park."
    "Isn't the summer humidity wonderful?"
    "Jeez, petrol's expensive."
    "Dealing with the official paperwork was a breeze."
    "Yes madam. It is indeed coming in Dubai."
    "That black-windowed Mercedes is being driven with skill and courtesy."
    "Please. After you."
    "Salik is such a brilliantly conceived system."

On planet Earth:
    "On reflection, sir, you couldn't have been speeding. I'll tear up this ticket."
    "It's a fair cop, guv. You've got me bang to rights."
    "Hi. I'm returning your call."
    "My husband always puts the new toilet roll on the holder."

Any others?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

'Slick?' No. 'Sleek?' No. Its SALIK!

I see the overhead gantries for Dubai's new toll road have been erected near Garhoud bridge. I also note that the Road and Transport Authority has helpfully erected 'free exit' signs in the corporate orange background to assist all the toll-dodgers. There's plenty of warning for anyone coming from Trade Centre Roundabout that there's a toll gate ahead. This is just as well; it'll cost Dh100 to go through the gate without a smart SALIK tag, rising to Dh200 and Dh 400 for second and third offences.

Coming from the Sharjah side there is rather less warning. The last advertised free exit is towards Festival City. There is an exit along Riyadh Road, between the Grand Hyatt and Wonderland that lies before the toll gate. It seemed to me that the obvious means to avoid the Garhoud toll gate when coming from Sharjah is to turn right along Riyadh Road, left at the new traffic lights, drive past Healthcare City and turn left at the other new traffic lights before getting back on Sheikh Rashid Road just past Wafi City. Actually, it's possible to turn off at the same exit and sneak past the Salik gate on the service road in front of the Grand Hyatt. Preumably until Plod blocks the route, that is.

Herein, of course, lies the problem. If I can think of this ratrun, so can everyone else.

Edited on 19th June to add: I note that RTA has noticed the ratrun and installed an additional SALIK toll gate on the Wonderland exit. So the last free exit when coming from Sharjah is indeed towards Festival City. This is an alarming precedent. If RTA can install toll gates over one exit, it's only a matter of time before gates appear over all the others.

My prediction is similar to Keefieboy's, except that I don't see only the side roads getting gridlocked.

There will be so much traffic heading for the last free exit that there will be miles and miles of tailback on the main road as four or more lanes of traffic attempt to insert themselves into a maximum of two lanes. There will be precisely zero incentive to buy a Salik card. Those Smart ALIKs who did so will find themselves stuck for hours in the same traffic jam as the toll-dodgers.

And then the police, in an attempt to free the gridlock, will force drivers to drive through the toll gate. How popular do you suppose that will be? Being ordered by the Plod to break the law and then being forced to pay fines after doing so!

I predict strongly worded letters to the editors of the local newspapers and an awful lot of extremely annoyed motorists.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good evening, Citizen. Crime Blitz!

Time for an old-fashioned, ill-informed rant.

Is it just me, or has officialdom recently decided to take a much closer look at what everyone is doing? All in the laudable name of 'Security' and for the 'Prevention of Terrorism.'

In the UK there's talk of extending police powers of Stop 'n' Search. In my opinion and experience, such extended powers are completely superfluous. In the past I've been stopped in the street and had my bag rummaged through by a an officer of the police force service on the unlikely premiss that I'd been to a late-night drinking den. So what did he expect to find in the bag? Used beermats, perhaps? The phrase the Constable used in his explanation included "Just to check you're not carrying the Crown Jewels." I kid you not. I have been stopped numerous times while driving for abiding by the speed limit. Apparently, not breaking any laws looks suspiciously like trying not to attract attention because I've been drinking. I was once pulled over and had my motorcycle and all my driving documents inspected on 'suspicion of intending to visit a public house.' Perhaps the mere act of riding a motorbike constitutes 'going equipped to commit an offence.' This is only a small step from the offences in the Not The Nine O'Clock news sketch that included 'walking on the cracks in the pavement', 'loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing' and 'urinating in a public convenience'.

The so-called 'sus law' - arresting someone on suspicion that he was loitering with intent to commit an arrestable offence - were abandoned in the UK back in the early 1980s after it was noticed that something like 90% of all those arrested were from the same ethnic group. Nowadays it's a different group who'd likely get targeted. Whereas Col. Rupert ffarting-Loudleigh (Rtd.) might consider it "A dashed good idea, what!", I suspect one Mr Saeed Mohammed (a name picked at random and not targeted at any particular individual) might beg to differ. And all because of the 0.01% who comprise all of the potential troublemakers.

But if you've done no wrong, you have nothing to fear.

Personally, I'd rather not have my front door kicked in because of an anonymous tip-off that my flat was allegedly a drugs or a bomb factory. I'd rather not have to go through the whole indignity of arrest, fingerprints and mugshots before being advised that it was all a ghastly mistake and I'm free to go. I don't suppose for an instant that my non-criminal record would be deleted from the police files.

But if you've done no wrong, you have nothing to fear.

Any law-abiding citizen would presumably have no objection to having a CCTV camera installed in his bathroom or bedroom, wired to the local police station. As far as I know, it is not illegal to use the lavatory. Neither is it against the law to sleep with your spouse.

You have done no wrong; you have nothing to fear.

Fans of the 2000AD comic will doubtless recognise Judge Dredd's: "Good evening, Citizen. Crime Blitz!" after which the citizen's apartment is taken systematically to pieces by the Justice Department in a search for any evidence of illegal activity. If you look carefully enough, everyone is guilty of something. It was Cardinal Richelieu who once noted that "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Although he presumably said it in French.

The danger is that we'll all accept the temporary removal of our rights to privacy in the name of National Security until, all of a sudden, we wake up one day to discover that in our doubleplusgood society these rights never existed.

Stolen from another forum: "Nineteen Eighty-Four is supposed to be a warning, not a bloody instruction manual."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Goat Hill

I am the type who'll sometimes buy a product solely because of the packaging. But does anyone know what Goat Hill Pale Ale tastes like? More to the point, is it worth getting a case or two in for the wedding?

BTW thanks to Mme Cyn for giving me a tee shirt with the Goat Hill logo.

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